Author Archives: Brenna Chen

How Plants “Work”

Although the current temperature in California hints at spring weather, I was still surprised to see tinges of green on some of the trees, especially as over a month of winter is still to be expected.

This led me to recall a recent biology lecture at school onto why and how plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis and why they are green, and it was fascinating for me to connect school knowledge to something I witnessed on the streets and hiking trails!
UvasPlants
Here is a brief summary: Plants appear green because they can absorb and use all light except for green, which they reflect. These light particles, called photons, strike leaf pigments called chlorophyll. The photons breaks down water, releasing the oxygen that we need to survive, and energize electrons, which latch onto electron carriers and go through a series of chemical reactions. This creates an electrical gradient, ultimately leading to formation of high-energy molecules such as ATP. This leads to the Calvin Cycle, where enzymes along with electron carriers transform ATP into the much more stable form of energy: glucose. The plant can use the glucose for all the things we do – to grow, to metabolize – or we can tap that tree for sap such as maple syrup.  This is a highly efficient process that makes use of our most plentiful energy resource — light.

This cool connection to my biology lecture allowed me to realize how amazing plants truly are – and how under appreciated they are. The next time I hike, I’ll be sure to admire these trees in all their beauty – and for all they do for us!

 

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Cacti

My family has always ran into an issue when ever we receive a new plant: they almost always die. Whether it’s too much water, too little water or not enough sunlight, one determining factor always seems to doom the plant to its inevitable wilting and death. However, I refused to give up and recently hoped to break this trend with one simple action: buying a mini cactus.

Luckily, I’ve been successful; it has been one month and the cactus is still growing and healthy! And I’ve discovered that its spikes are not actually painful but soft, almost like coarse fur. But what fascinated me the most was how it could go for many days without being watered and still be fine. So I did a little research…

Because a cactus has no leaves, it doesn’t give up its water through evaporation as easily as other plants. In fact, the prickly spines of cacti are actually highly-modified leaves, which reduce water loss by restricting air flow near the cactus. Its stems provide a lot of room and have a protective coating for storing water. Also, most cacti have extensive but shallow root systems that allow them to soak up any rainfall that may come their way. Some cactus species can even go for two years without water, and it’s useful to note that in an emergency in the desert, you can always cut open a cactus to find liquid.

Hope you enjoyed my spontaneous article and happy hiking!

 

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New Years Resolutions

Hope you all had a great start to 2018! As the year begins to pick up and the kids begin to return to school, it’s often easy to move past the festivities and relaxation of the holiday season into the hustle and daily grind of work and school. However, one way you can take advantage of the new year is by using it as a time to start over and refresh, especially by making a New Year’s resolution!

But why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep, and is there a trick to making goals we can keep? According to sources like Huffington Post, broad goals like “get more exercise” or “eat healthy” are much more difficult to keep than specific goals like “run once a week” or “limit eating junk food to once a week.” In fact, a better method to creating better goals is checking if your goals are “SMART” goals. That means they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Saying “I wish I made more time for reading” doesn’t leave you with any real, actionable steps. But reframing that as “I’m going to read four books by the end of January” provides a starting point from which you can create a plan. For more advice on how to create a SMART New Year’s resolution, check out https://alifeofproductivity.com/resolutions/chapter4/

But whether your New Year’s resolution contains exercising, be sure not to miss out on the chance to get outside and experience nature in the winter! As time passes, be sure to keep an eye out for changes; it’s beautiful watching the leaves slowly reappear on the barren branches and watching the transition from winter to spring. Also, although winters in California do not get too chilly, make sure to check out https://americanhiking.org/resources/cold-weather-hiking/ for tips on hiking in cold weather so you or your children avoid catching a cold! Hope you all have a wonderful start to 2018 and happy hiking!

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Take a Breather

I’m currently a junior with Dead Week winding down, the time of year and year that everyone says is the most brutal. But reflecting back on the year so far, I’ve also learned so many invaluable skills and lessons as a junior (sadly mostly through trial and error). And I’ve noticed one crucial thing I’ve noticed so many of my friends are lacking that I myself failed to find before: an outlet to breathe.

Now I sometimes find this outlet in exercise. After a long day of studying and sitting all day, it’s incredibly refreshing o go out for a run or play badminton with my friends. And other times it might be music. Piano allows me to express myself and vent out my feelings, whether by pounding the keys when frustrated or by playing an emotional song after a long day. But it really could be anything, whether it’s piano, running or even hiking, and my day personally wouldn’t feel satisfactory without it. So I’d like to share this small observation I’ve made as a junior: just don’t forget it’s okay to take a break and relax at times, and it’s definitely important to not only study but enjoy yourself along the way!

And if you’re struggling to find new ways to relax and take a breather from the hustle of life, join a Stroller Hike! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never joined one before, and it’s an easy way to exercise, relax, explore new trails and talk with some great company, or simply get out of your comfort zone. 🙂

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If Your Kids Are Stubborn About Hiking…

Hiking makes me happy. It’s a rare chance for me to walk and talk with no obligations or responsibilities. It’s so different that the usual cycle of school, homework, classes and stress that I think of it as a reward, not a duty. But lately with the stress of junior year I just can’t find the time to hike. Or maybe I’m just too lazy? But I got to wondering: hiking does make me happy and I know it provides exercise that I need much more of, but why can’t I find the motivation to get out of my bed and take that stroll? So then I began to think: do parents in the Stroller Hikes community have trouble getting their kids to step out of the house with the tablets and electronics, and actually talk and walk? I know I may have been a little reluctant to be honest…

As a teenager I can understand a bit of both perspectives and both parts of the struggle. On one side I’m still just a child; I don’t want to have to go outside because it’s so cold, it takes too much energy, I’m just tired… But on the other side I understand the parent, who just wants what’s good for the child…

So I’ve promised my mom we’ll go hiking to witness the beautiful autumn leaves, which I had somehow been totally oblivious to until she had pointed it out. And after some digging I found an article that may help any parents with stubborn kids like me: http://www.wta.org/go-outside/kids/how-to/top-ten-tips-for-hiking-with-reluctant-kids. (Essentially, first gradually adjust your children to the outdoors through small strolls at first, and continually make the stroll enjoyable and fun for them; ask them what they want and create activities that align with their interests and personalities. But overall, just remember to stay positive and simply get them outdoors more, whether you’re hiking, strolling or simply admiring the scenery!)

Also feel free to reply back and let me know if you have trouble getting your kids to go hiking, and if you have any suggestions on any newsletters to write. (I’m running out of ideas haha) whether it’s advice on getting your kids to hike or any other topic you’re curious about; I’m open to anything! 🙂

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